Phoenix Citizens Seriously Under Represented

Sam Richard has an excellent piece over at the Downtown Phoenix Journal on Size Does Matter.  He discusses how messed up the boundaries and representation for the City of Phoenix currently is.

This is a serious problem. Let’s add perspective….

Mesa: 437k people, 7 mayor/council.. 1 to 66,000 representation
Chandler: 247k people, 7 mayor/council.. 1 to 35,000 representation
Gilbert: 207k people, 7 mayor/council.. 1 to 30,000 representation
Average from these 3 cities 1 to 43,670 representation

Phoenix: 1.5m people, 9 mayor/council.. 1 to 167,000 representation

For Phoenix to get back in alignment with some of its East Valley counterparts it would need to increase to 34 mayor/council seats.

I hope this helps focus just how poorly Phoenix citizens are represented in their local government. Chicago and New York having 50 doesn’t seem so silly now does it…..

Commentary on Whats Wrong With Downtown Phoenix

Last week Tyler Hurst made a post on what’s wrong with downtown Phoenix. There is certainly one thing he got absolutely right,  “Downtown Phoenix isn’t about businesses, buildings or parks. It’s about people. Those that live, work and/or play here make this place what it is.

Here are my thoughts on Tyler’s list.

1. Anything fun is spaced too far away. We have small little hives of activity connected with long, dark patches of absolutely nothing.

This is problematic.  There seems to be little factions popping up all over.  Hell many can’t even agree on what the boundaries of downtown Phoenix should even be.  Concentration of people and activity is extremely important.  Even the ASU downtown campus isn’t connected to itself.

2. Most of the people living here are liberal artists. They don’t make much money, don’t understand how to make money and seem content with First Fridays for selling anything. Yeah, good luck with that.

There definitely seems to be a lack of understanding of how basic economics work among many of the biggest proponents.  This is preventing real attraction of people who will support the area financially.  In time, when the economy picks back up it will also mean rich land developers mowing down what is being worked so hard to build.  The city will support this because while “vibrant” the current model does not show economical significance in comparison to what big land developers offer.

3. We have tons of groups, yet no one talks to each other. Go ask the marketing person at the Phoenix Art Museum and he’ll tell you the same. We all have our own thing on our own day, and they’re all sparsely attended.

Unity is so important.  People need not like one another, but they need to learn to support one another.  Creativity/Innovation is not a zero sum game.

4. Everyone wants a creative class down here, but no one understands what the hell that even is.

See item #2.  The basic misunderstanding of things such as social classes is just one sign that there are basic misunderstandings of how things effect the economy.  Until the struggling artist understands they need that corporate creative professional bringing down 200k a year to support them, it will be painful to see things collapse when big developers start their engines again.

5. Most are against anything corporate or chain, yet they don’t understand that’s where the money comes from.

See item #2 and item #4.  The theme here is that while local is best for sustainability, downtown needs to be sensitive to what the people with money are willing to participate and support.  The right mix of things is necessary to get things in full swing.  Even “real cities” have chains and non local owned businesses.

6. Everything is shiny happy unicorn rainbows all the time. THE BEST EVENT EVER! First Friday was a blast! The little scavenger hunt we had changed my life (okay, that last one was actually fun)! It’s called perspective. Try it.

To be excellent you must constantly seek improvement.  The only way to improve is to find deficiencies.  If everyone thinks everything is perfect already, then no improvement occurs and one is destined to mediocrity.

7. No one looks around. Nice Twitterhunt last week, CenPho businesses. Didn’t bother to check that many of the people using social media had their own GeekWeekAZ and were too tired to participate, did you?

Im not sure you can blame the businesses here.  What are the people doing to engage the businesses?  Everyone should be in it together.

8. Too many businesses think A) Twitter is the answer or B) don’t have a fucking clue what the internet, much less social media, even is. I live downtown and I don’t hear a damn thing about what goes on down here, and I’m constantly searching social media channels. It’s about BALANCE.

There certainly needs to be community OUTSIDE of technology.  While technology helps get the word out in many ways it retards the relationships that are vital to building real and sustaining community.  Turn off the technology for a while and really get to know people.

9. Everyone bitches, but no one bitches out loud and in public. Pissed about Modified Arts? SAY SOMETHING. Want to start a music venue? ASK AROUND.

You are victim if you passively complain and don’t stand up to voice things or are unwilling to get involved.  I think the biggest faux pas that creative class has made in downtown Phoenix is not getting involved in the right organizations and making an impact.

10. We want our downtown to be just like someone else’s. Doesn’t work that way. While I love the Gaslamp District, our city leaders seem too concerned with north Phoenix to make that happen. You want to improve your city? DO IT.

See #9. Also, be fucking unique.  Don’t be what someone else is.  The people here are unique, as is the weather, the culture and the history.  Make downtown phoenix representative of that uniqueness.

11. Phoenix thinks it has an image problem, when Phoenix IS THE PROBLEM. It’s foot-burning, nose-drying, armpit-sweating hot five months every year here, and we have a downtown WITHOUT ANY SHADED SIDEWALKS.

Please.  Shaded sidewalks while nice are not the problem.  Phoenix is not the problem.  Remember Tyler, it’s the people.  The people are the problem. 🙂  They need to be united in trying to transform where they live.  They need to have a vision with clarity that they can get behind and they need to be ruthless in executing it.  No whining, no complaining.  Less talking and more doing.

12. You built a park in the middle of the city and didn’t bother to shade it. Instead, we got a floating cervix that only looks good at night. How fucking stupid are you people?

The shade it provides is less than stellar and we can argue about it’s looks.  Im not sure it has anything to do with what’s wrong with downtown Phoenix.  It’s better than the pile of shit erected in front of Skysong.

13. The AZ Republic still exists, apparently above questioning. Does anyone even read that rag anymore? Arpaio met with Biden? WHO’S REPORTING WHAT?

I read that rag cover to cover every weekday (along with the Wall Street Journal).  I think it is in dire need of some help, but right now it’s all we got.  Someday I will get frustrated enough to get passionate about trying to change how we report news here to try to change things, but for now it’s better than nothing (albeit not by much).

14. Businesses think Light Rail is the answer. No, being amazing is the answer, Light Rail is just a more efficient way of bringing people to you.

Light rail has positioned well for an economic future that didnt exist before it.  However, the cost and operations are probably something that will be problematic for years to come as local governments involved are so poorly under funded.  However, you are correct it is not THE answer.  Being awesome (read being excellent) is the answer.  Downtown will never be awesome until it learns to criticize and respond to criticism with improvement.

15. Too often, criticism is passed off as complaining. Ever try asking a critic if they’re willing to help? I bet they are!

Agree.

16. ASU has been allowed to grow in the middle of downtown, without any sort of clear plan as to what role it will play in the community. Right now, it offers residents limited WiFi. Woohoo.

ASU brings more harm than help in the long term.  Ask Tempe what it’s like cleaning the cage of the 800lb giant.

17. There’s always talk about shopping local, yet no one actually does it. Ever seen unmanageable lines at the Farmer’s Market? Me neither.

I can’t speak to this one, but if people aren’t shopping local, downtown Phoenix stands little chance.

18. That people probably haven’t even read this far.

no comment.

Agree or disagree, get down to Local Breeze on Tuesday, November 24 from 5:30-7:30pm and get your point across. You don’t count if you don’t show up.

What is sad is that there will probably be more people there arguing for what to do that DO NOT live there, than there are people who actually do.  If this is the case.  If even 10% of the people that are there don’t currently live or operate businesses down there, then downtown is hurting much more than I expected.  I would love to attend and give an opinion, but honestly I don’t have a dog in the fight.

Disclosure: I live in Queen Creek and operate businesses in Chandler.  I am committed to improving both of the communities and the southeast valley. However, I would love to see the entire metro area and even Tucson succeed.

Metro Phoenix: Where Awesome Happens

The other night I was sitting at work finishing up some things and the Phoenix Rails Meeting was just starting.  After that meeting, we had a great discussion on MacRuby and some of what was in the future for that platform.  From there several of us headed to Liberty Market to meet up with NSCoders and had a great discussion on Apple‘s AppStore and various business models around it.  During the ride home I recorded the following in hopes of making a blog post.  Some how, it just says it better than bad prose ever could.

Isn’t It Awesome? (Audio Memo)

“Awesome getting work done while listening to a presentation about a platform you use for your day job.  Then have compelling discussion about platform being developed. Leave that discussion with a few other people to get a bite to eat at a top rate eatery.  While there have a phenomonal discussion about  the business side of deploying applications at various price points and dealing with ecosystems of platforms you deal with in the company of entirely different people.  Have it all be close to home, great food, great atmosphere, great people at both places. Something that is starting to happen EVERYDAY not just every once in a while.”

We don’t celebrate the victories enough.  On this particular night, I felt like I was in Silicon Valley.  I felt euphoric about the discussions, energy and passion that I had experienced as a part of a normal day.  I didn’t feel like I was attending the typical manufactured events.  I felt like I was just going about my day and awesome was surrounding me.  It reminded me that maybe, just maybe at times Josh Strebel get’s it right.

Clean Up Your Own Yard, Before Cleaning Up The Neighborhood

I stumbled up on “Can Phoenix Make a ‘Creative Class’ appeal” and found it reassuring that others in the area are talking about the current state of the economy in Metro Phoenix in ways other than “doom and gloom”.  I personally happen to think this massive recession is just the wake up call this region needed.  It has proven that land development as a primary economy and tourism as a secondary economy is nothing but a house of cards to every person in a position of power in the region.  We have open ears and willing minds (even if they begrudgingly are moving along).  I posted my thoughts on what Bill had to say directly on Bill’s blog, but wanted to do a separate post on what I thought of of the opinion piece “We can make Phoenix competitive in global contest for talent in the arts, sciences and business“.

Let me start by saying, can we drop this “global” buzz word bullshit?  I mean we can’t even compete with areas like Boulder and Austin.  Do we really want to be worried about Toyko?  Point being, why don’t we start making it so talent and companies currently operating out of Phoenix want to stay in Phoenix.  Perhaps draw some talent and companies from other places far weaker than Phoenix before taking on Goliath.  Every technology company/startup I have talked to in the last 10 years in Arizona has had the “do we need to move to SF/LA/NY” conversation among it’s partners.  We need to get to a place where that discussion isn’t happening anymore.  Then let’s talk about taking on the world.

The opinion piece states “growing body of research that supports our state’s urgent need for economic diversification“.  My father might say, “no shit, sherlock?”.  My big problem here is the piece states the obvious but does little in the way of covering how to fix it.  For example they state “The most prosperous regions over the long term are those with an extensive pool of creative talent“, but no where do they talk about the educational system.  So, are we going to import ALL the talent?  Hardly viable.  They talk a lot about what CEO’s want, but in reality the companies of the future want one thing.  A deep pool of talent to grow their companies with.  Now that we are out of the industrial age, it is easy to move a company providing where you move it has a reasonable source of talented minds.  Simply put, ITS ALL ABOUT PEOPLE!

While I agree “Branding a region is not branding a car – regions are complex, multidimensional and have multiple stakeholders“, I think it’s foolish to think that branding is going to fix things.  We have a lot more than an image problem.  Spending money to polish a turd just makes for an expensive turd.  Can’t we use funding to start to fix real problems.  If we get the right people, they will help mold the branding by being authentic about why they are here.  So, please don’t waste time marketing until the product is ready for delivery.

Do we really get anything valuable out of Meetmetrophoenix.com?  The fact that the headline banner says Shocking Truth… “PHX is one of only 13 cities with franchises in all major pro sports leagues: PHX Suns (NBA), AZ Diamondbacks (MLB), AZ Cardinals (NFL) and PHX Coyotes (NHL). The FBR Open has the PGA Tour’s highest attendance.”  To be clear what you are branding to the entire creative class of the world is that Phoenix is completely moronic when it comes to creative people and thinks that big stadiums and sports teams are where it is at.  What sport franchise is in Austin?  How about Boulder?  Research Triangle Park?  Getting the picture yet?

At a time when most creatives consider print as a “dead medium”, let’s spend money producing a magazine.  “PHX, a magazine”… Hint: creative/technical people aren’t adverse to this thing called social media… If you have questions, we have hundreds of self proclaimed experts living here…

While I like their final statement, “Working alone we will have some impact – but working with one voice of commitment and leadership we can be transformational.” I hate to inform them they are not the right people to be leading any kind of a charge.  If we really desire the “AZ we Want”, we the people need to be leading that charge, not the same old cronies that got us into this mess.  What are you going to do to make your mark?

Does Phoenix Need To Change?

Last night, had some great conversation at Gangplank Hacknight with Remi Taylor, Chuck Reynolds, Ed Nusbaum, Mark Ng, Steve Swedler, Byron Bowerman, Ryan Gasparini, Mike Benner and William Bradley about how we can stop making excuses about the environment we have and instead start leveraging it do bigger and better things.  We were talking about downtown’s and inferiority complexes that exist and went to the numbers to do some fact checking.  Ed acted as the Jeopardy master.  Some interesting data.

1. Only California and Texas have more cities in the Top 50 cities by population.
2. The only two cities larger than Phoenix, Mesa, Glendale, Chandler, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Tempe and Peoria combined are NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES.  As a metro area Phoenix is #3 not #5.
3. Mesa has a higher population than Kansas City, Cleveland, Miami, Oakland, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Tampa and Pittsburg.
4. Chandler has a higher population than Orlando, Reno and Salt Lake City.

So you can see when I make the argument “which downtown“?  It’s really not all that absurd.

What’s the point?  The point is we might not have the urban density that many people clamor for, but the truth is the majority of the population here might not want it.  I think we are unique so we can’t look to other cities for how to solve our problems.  We need to create solutions unique to the people and challenges here.  It might just be time that we stop trying to pull everyone into a single central location and instead start thinking of Glendale, Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert and Scottsdale as cities in their own right, with their own identities.

So, yesterday morning I attended the Arizona Technology Council‘s Progress Forum.  This event highlighted all that the council has been doing for it’s members in the last sixth months.  At the end, President Steve Zylstra, asked what more they could be doing to help.  One of the topics that had been discussed was an inadequate talent pool.  I made the point that companies go to where the people are and if we aren’t keeping the people we have and attracting new people to our talent pool it is a very grim long term picture.  However, it is nice to note that San Francisco isn’t safe either.  For example Joe Stump the technical lead for Digg recently left for Boulder, CO and Alex Payne a technical lead at Twitter has voiced that he plans to leave for Portland, OR as soon as possible.

I asked the council what they were doing about the following things:

Universities
Chandler a city larger than Salt Lake City yet has no universities.  Mesa a city larger than Pittsburgh has only a satellite campus of a Arizona State University.  Put that in perspective, Pittsburgh has at least two major universities Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh. We don’t need more ASU campuses, we need more universities.  Competition is a good thing.  We need a university dedicated to technology not a megalith that wants to be all things to all graduates.  The council indicated that they were talking with M.I.T about potentially putting a campus here.  Additionally they mentioned talking to Grand Canyon University and working with them to get an engineering program in place.

Immigration
Arizona has  astigmatism for being unfriendly to immigrants.  Granted, being against the Mexico border we see lots of illegal immigration that isn’t always productive.  However, this puts it even higher on our priority to fix immigration and by fixing I don’t mean stopping. I mean increasing.  Significantly increasing.  We need to be doing things to attract talent from outside this country.  We need to be providing ways for students that come to our universities to stay and work after they graduate.  Allowing easier LEGAL immigration will help curb and make enforcement of ILLEGAL immigration.  16% of high impact, high tech startups have at least 1 foreign born founder.  So, where does the council stand on allowing people to immigrate here?  Where does it stand of the founders visa?

Culture
We struggle with our identity.  We project to the world that we are a bunch of gun toting senior citizens, that wear cowboy boots and hats and suffer through 140 degree summers.  When it comes to business we have a reputation for being the scam center of the universe.  While there might be a hint of truth each of these things, we aren’t telling people about how it’s October and we still are wearing shorts, t-shirts and flip flops.  We aren’t telling them about Sedona, Prescott, Payson, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon and other things we take for granted.  We might not have great public transportation yet, but we do have average commute times under 25 minutes compared to nearly 35 minute average commute times in Boston, LA, San Francisco and New York.  For our size we have a low cost of living and affordable house prices.  It would be a loaded question to ask the council how they are going to change the culture here, but I think it’s fair for each of us to ask ourselves.

Now many might say why do we need to change anything?  We need to change something because the economies that built what we have today, land development and tourism, will not be significantly rebounding in the next decade.  We will experience a rather unpleasant adjustment if we are not able to institute new economies.  Attracting and keeping talent for new economies will require some adjustments.

If this kind of stuff interests you hit me up on twitter @dneighbors or drop me an email.  I would like to start having more conversations like last night and start getting people involved in making a difference.

How Do We Fix Phoenix? Solutions Are Out There!

A blog I started reading recently and suggested by Chuck Reynolds called Rogue Columnist, is pretty interesting. It highlights a lot of the problems in Phoenix from someone that was raised here pre 1970 and has since moved to Seattle. It has a great sense of history about this great place, but can be misguided at times by agendas against sprawl, lack of water conservation, conservative government and lack of attention to global warming. While certainly am not interested in promoting any of those things, I think the author at times gets too hung up on his agendas and is not realistic in expectations. I do however applaud that he CRITICIZES what is going on here and isn’t the average “cheerleader” that we normally see.

He highlights 15 solutions to make Phoenix better. I was going to comment on them on his blog but figured it was easier to do so here. Please read his original post, it has the full details to each of these items.  Also read his other writings on Arizona. It stuff for great discussions.

1. Stop building outside the existing urban footprints of Arizona’s cities.
I agree with this. Lets back-fill some, instead of pushing more sprawl. I am not sure the best way to do this short of tax penalties for continued sprawl. What would that look like?

2. Water. Arizona needs to declare an immediate water emergency — aimed at sprawl and the lack of transparent facts about the state’s reserves, not aimed at watering shade trees.
I agree with this, but call bull shit on the rhetoric used to support it. The easiest way to conserve water is increase it’s cost dramatically. Set reasonable use amounts and penalize the hell out of any usage above that amount.

3. Incentives to develop inside the footprint of the Salt River Project, which has the best chance of surviving the future.
I think this is one is fairly bunk. While I agree with the sentiment I think the authors hatred of suburbs clouds his vision. We don’t need to spend money to attract people back into the core. Penalize the growth and let this occur more naturally. If you make incentives for development, then big developers will abuse this to their advantage and we end up with more stupid shit no one wants.

4. Diversify the economy into high quality sectors.
Short of water conservation, this is the biggest thing we should be doing. This is the primary mission of Gangplank and a deep passion of mine. The time is now. Municipalities understand a “growth” economy  isn’t working anymore and are more supportive than ever. Let’s not waste this opportunity. I think the downtown bio-med stuff is largely a joke, but at least they are trying. The solar movement is mostly lip service, but again they are trying. I vehemently disagree with the authors suggest we “recruit” outside companies.  We have been doing this for 40 years and it doesn’t work.

5. All this means rethinking “growth.”
I agree with most of what is here. Some of the items I’m less passionate about (in their current incarnations), but overall the ideals are correct.

6. Let the East Valley set up its own county (I suspect Tempe and Scottsdale would stay in Maricopa).
I actually think this might be a good idea, but for the exact OPPOSITE reasons the author states. I think that West half of Maricopa County is much more of a boat anchor than the East half. Ultimately, Im an old school Arizona boy and I would love to see it stay itself and have everyone win.

7. Fix the schools
I whole-heartedly agree with this. HOWEVER, I completely disagree to do it by giving them more money. Fix the institution and the system, then fund the shit out of it, but DO NOT give it funding before it is fixed.  Burning hundred dollar bills is more productive.

8. In urban areas, stop building roads and make a crash program for all kinds of transit.
I disagree with Light Rail, as its too expensive for the lack of density we currently have, but agree we need more viable transit. High-speed rail to Tucson/LA/SanDiego/Vegas, commuter rail and other innovations would be interesting. I would love to see people get CREATIVE here.

9. Become an outward-looking place.
I think we need to look outward, but lets fix ourselves first. This is a second tier item on my list. When we are in better shape lets start looking for a date to the prom.. K.

10. Create an appropriate tax structure.
We definitely need a fix here, I have not thought about it enough to have opinions on the right thing. We need to be less real estate friendly and more business friendly to start.

11. Provide tax-increment financing and other proven tools to cities to revitalize and channel development and business into their downtowns.
I like the idea, but need to study it more to have a strong opinion either way.

12. Invest water in creating multiple shade islands in Phoenix. Encanto Park, Arcadia and the area from north of Camelback Road to the Arizona Canal on Central show the dramatic affect this shade and grass have on lowering temperatures.
I disagree with this one. Let the desert be the desert. I call bullshit on the whole temperature thing. I do agree we should have more parks, but pushing for “shade islands” is for fannies (see what I did there MarkNg).

13. Declare moratoriums on more development in Buckeye and Pinal County (see point No. 1 above).
I don’t think it’s correct to put moratoriums on them, but I think its fair to make them pay their own damn way. Which they can not. So in essence it puts a moratorium on them. I have some radical thoughts on this but they may not be viable. 🙂

14. Fix the immigrant underclass that is already there, with good schools, English learning (it is the international business language) and ladders up to information age jobs.
I agree here. The KEY is no more English as a Second Language. Becoming fluent in English is MANDATORY.

15. I don’t have all the answers. I do know that doing the same thing over and over while hoping for a better outcome is the definition of…today’s Arizona.
I’m disappointed that the author doesn’t have all the answers, but I have a few to add. I would have a LOT to add, but I didn’t sit down and think about it. 🙂

– Stop the bullshit. Fix Immigration Laws and Open Immigration. See item 14.
– Stop recruiting outside and international companies as the panacea to build new economies. We need companies started here and grown here. Recruiting headquarters, call centers or operational arms is not viable long term. We need founders of companies here that are loyal to here and MOST IMPORTANTLY will re-invest back here when they succeed.
– Be responsible for the community you live in and make a difference.

What Phoenix Can Learn From Willy Wonka

This morning on the drive in I saw Chris Conrey tweet, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along w/ people.”-Theodore Roosevelt (listening #phx?)”.

I had to giggle a little bit and then responded with, “@conrey “daddy I want a goose that lays golden eggs. I want it right now” — veruca salt (willy wonka)”.

I really like analogies or metaphors and the more I thought about the off the cuff example in that exchange the more I liked it. So Phoenix, here is the Willy Wonka version of some challenges we face. There were five children that entered the Wonka factory and only one survived. Maybe we can learn something from them.

Augustus Gloop
Poor Augustus was filled with gluttony. In the end his lust for chocolate was his down fall. Too often people are filled with greed. They get lost in what matters. They are so focused their own personal “chocolate river”, that often times they haven’t even realized when they have fallen in. Much like Augustus mother, their friends make excuses for them and even indulge this behavior.

Oompa Loompa’s say “So greedy, foul, and infantile”

Veruca Salt
Talk about spoiled and greedy. Her petulant behavior finally did her in, but the way she is most mimicked in our community is her impatience. You see Veruca must not only have everything her way, but she has to have it her way RIGHT NOW. The longer she goes without getting her way, the more angry she gets. Ultimately this “bad egg” behavior gets her sent down the chute.

Oompa Loompa’s say “Veruca salt the little brute”

Violet Beauregarde
This ultra competitive little girl let’s her ego get the better of her. Competition is healthy, but having to have the spotlight on you and your achievements only develops an unhealthy sense of self. After finding the bubble gum of her dreams she ignored all warning signs of danger because her ego convinced her she could handle anything. Much like her father, friends of people who exhibit this behavior gently warn of danger, but are too timid to stage an intervention to save them.

Oopma Loompa’s say “This dreadful girl she sees no wrong… “

Mike Teavee
This type of personality is so obsessed with what they believe is important that they are incapable of seeing the outside world. They blindly chase after things in the most fanatical sense. Often without thought or reason. Just like Mike they may find themselves minimized and removed, but still not even realize their fate.

Oopma Loompa’s say
“It rots the senses in the head, It kills imagination dead”

Charlie Bucket
Finally we come to Charlie. He makes mistakes like we all do, but he honestly admits them. More importantly he takes the criticism from Wonka head on. He believes in honesty and integrity and wont let his desires sway his moral compass. In the end his patience and ability to fight adversity gets him that which he most desires.

So Conrey, while we might all need to get along. The truth is we could use a whole lot more Charlie Buckets in Phoenix.

Phoenix, What are you doing to ensure your golden ticket turns into your dream?

Phoenix Startups, Which City Wants To Be Mob Friendly?

Metro Phoenix municipalities let me start by saying, “you don’t get it”.  You have spent billions on things like light rail and revitalizing your down towns.  You do this to look attractive to large businesses.  You think if you can provide this massive infrastructure, that they will bring their billion dollar industry to you.  “Build it, and they will come.”  This is a fantasy land you live in.  You think far too small.  This mentality belongs in movies not in economics.

Some day you will understand that bringing the operational arm of fortune 500 companies only brings “here today, gone tomorrow” jobs to the area, but an economy it does not make.  If you want to stay a tourist and land development economy you can stop reading now.  Go back to collecting your tourist taxes and your system development fees.  If you want to become a leader in technology, bio sciences and energy keep reading.  You won’t compete with the Midwest, South and foreign countries when it comes to providing cheap operational labor forever.  It’s a bad strategy anyhow.  Call the mayor of Detroit and ask him how being the labor force for American Automakers is working out.  Stop targeting yourself as the call center hub of failing banks or as the fabrication farm of major chip makers.

paypal_mafia03 Instead, let me tell you a little story.  One that reads like the Soprano’s built off real life events.  Let me introduce to you the Pay Pal Mafia.  Several years back there were several great stories written on the “crew”, in reputable places like Wired, Fortune, Forbes and the NY Times, so I won’t rehash that.

They are important because they got it.  The inner circle of Pay Pal founders and executives took the money they received when they cashed out to eBay and REINVESTED it into local startups that their network of peers had been sitting on, just waiting for capital.  They now control much of the economy in Silicon Valley having a piece of action in nearly every major new startup in the last 4 or 5 years.  See the list below to see the reach just 11 guys have in personal investment.

So, you see the trick here is to spend your money and time (ie: invest yourself) in helping the next Pay Pal.  You know that little company that is from Phoenix and loves Phoenix, but will be forced to move to Silicon Valley to get their first round of funding.  The one that when they make it big will give back in spades to the very community that helps them get there.  The startup that is still an idea, looking for the right connections, the one that will spark the culture and economy of dominance for your future.  Quit investing recklessly on the 40 year infrastructure plan in hopes of landing the billion dollar “it company”, instead invest in the 40,000 entrepreneurs already swimming in your pond looking to break out and be the next big fish.  I know it sounds risky, perhaps even foolish, but you need to invest in PEOPLEPEOPLE that ultimately are dying to invest back in you.

Let me break it down for you.  Your next economy will not come from a plane flight out of state to meet with a megacorp CEO.  It will come by going down the street to have lunch with one of your current residents that has some crazy new idea that they are dying to share with you, in hopes that you point them in the right direction or introduce them to their missing contact.  So for the love of your city, please go to lunch with that someone this week!  Please believe in the people you already have.

Some Paypal Mafia Companies

  • Facebook
  • Youtube
  • Yelp
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • Flickr
  • Last.fm
  • Joost
  • Kiva
  • Ning
  • Geni
  • Tesla (Electric Cars)
  • SpaceX (Space Ships)
  • Room 9 (Movie Production)
  • Slide
  • Palantir
  • IronPort
  • Solar City
  • TokBox
  • Xoom
  • Yammer